1001 Books June Round Up
What books from the 1001 list did we tackle in June and who were the winners and losers?
BOTM – Justine by Marquis de Sade: Synopsis from Goodreads: Justine was the Marquis de Sade’s first novella, written in 1787, whilst imprisoned for two weeks in the Bastille. Although published anonymously, de Sade was eventually indicted for blasphemy and obscenity (without trial) for the authorship of Justine at the behest of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Was this book as bad as I expected it to be? Yes, it really was. I expected to hate it and I did hate. People can try and convince me that there is something worth reading in this, that it is actually very clever and that I should see beyond the surface which is disgusting but honestly I am never going to believe that.
Justine is a f*****g idiot who after she is orphaned and abandoned by her elder sister puts her trust in the goodness of mankind (big mistake). Justine trusts a man he rapes her, Justine trusts a woman she gives her over to perverts who rape her, Justine escapes the perverts, Justine meets another man and guess what…he rapes her and this happens so many times I lost count, I lost all interest and the will to live.
The other thing that would really p**s me off if I was Frenchman was that according to this novel we would all be abusers, sadists and paedophiles is that really the impression you want the world to have of your country? Regardless of the (what he no doubt thought was really clever) philosophy used to explain that all men are justified to act this way because nature intended us to have what we want without restriction.
1 Star – I have read this so you don’t have to.
Q2 Read – The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James : This novel is considered one of James’ best novels so did it live up to this expectation? Yes it did. I really did not expect to enjoy this one as much as I did. This was originally published as a series and that does show in the way the story is written, expect a lot of added descriptions, some readers find this annoying for me personally it added to the feeling of time and place.
While the title suggests this is the story of one lady it is actually a story of multiple ladies each of whom has different degrees of freedom, independence, wealth and character and it is the interactions of these women that make the book so compelling.
Unlike the Marquis de Sade Henry James can actually write a believable female character and not just one he manages to write several.
4 Stars – read it.
TBR Challenge – The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
As a child Kingsolver with her parents in the Congo, in adulthood she learned how the United States secretly sabotaged the country’s independence. She wrote The Poisonwood Bible to address and publicize these issues. Does she get this message across? Yes Is this a great book? Yes.
4 stars for enjoyment 5 stars for message
I loved the early part of the novel where the family have first arrived in the Congo and are settling into their new roles as tourist attractions (due to being white) and missionaries (the whole reason they are there). I loved the switching narratives which reveal how all the female characters are adapting to their new lives. I liked the way the mother’s sections were largely reflexions looking back on what has happened and dropping hints about what was coming up, while each daughter was writing in the current time about their own experiences.
I loved the explorations of the native language, culture and superstition and how religion could be changed according to which God seemed to have the most influence on nature. I liked the way the family had to learn how to adapt and live like the native people and how they learned from them how to survive.
The later parts of the novel I found harder as they dealt with life after the mission had quite clearly fallen apart, the family are scattered and the relationship between the girls is strained. Instead of dealing with daily survival the focus now shifts to politics and outside interference. The Congo becomes a place of danger and outsiders are not welcome. While the political message is important it was not as compelling as watching the family survive together.
One thing that really struck me from the political side of the book was the idea of democracy, in the Congo a leader has to get everyone on board and this is done in successive debates until finally one leader emerges who everyone can support. This seems a much fairer system than 49 out of 100 people being unhappy with the choice and far more democratic.
There are so many great quotes in this book so I will just share a few here:
“We aimed for nothing more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth”
“Leba, the gods you do not pay are the ones that can curse you best”
“They understand that white people make very troublesome ghosts”
“If you look hard enough you can always see reasons, but you’ll go crazy if you think it’s all punishment for your sins”
“The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it again and again. We have no choice. It is the one solemn promise every life on earth is born and bound to keep.”
“To an outsider it looks like chaos. It isn’t. Its negotiation, infinitely ordered and endless.”
This would make an amazing book club read as there is so much potential for discussion.
4 Stars – read it! My favourite 1001 read this month.
Yearly – Pilgrimage Volume 5 Interim by Dorothy Richardson. The journey continues…does it get any better? No.
Regular readers will know I have struggles with the first 4 volumes of this epic saga and it will probably come as no surprise that I also struggled with this volume. This was actually a quicker read than the previous volumes but Miriam is still unlikeable and the story is still boring.
3 Stars – read at your own risk.
Yearly – Pilgrimage Volume 5 Deadlock by Dorothy Richardson. The journey continues…does it get any better? Finally Yes.
This volume of the book really grew on me and I appreciated the debates between Miriam and Shatov although some of the conversations are uncomfortably racist. The debates cover literature, the role of women in society and actually mentions feminism as a concept.
Here are some quotes that struck me:
“Because some women had corns, feminine beauty was a myth; because the world could do without Mrs Hermans’ poetry, women should confine their attention to puddings and babies. The infernal complacent cheek of it. This was the kind of thing middle-class men read.”
“It ought to be illegal to publish a book by a man without first giving it to a woman to annotate.”
“They have absolutely no souls at all. I never saw an American soul. The Canadians have.” So Canadian women speaking looks painful but the Americans have no soul way to improve relations Miriam.
“Her anticipations fell dead. It was the name of a woman…Anna; of all names. Karenine. The story of a woman told by a man with a man’s idea about people.”
“At present there is England, both for the Jewish speculator and the refugee pauper. But for those who look at facts, the end of this possibility is in sight. The time for the closing of this last door is approaching.” Very insightful
“The thought of no God made life simply silly. The thought of God made it embarrassing.”
“You see Miriam, if instead of beating me, you will tell me your thoughts, it is quite possible that mine may be modified.” Communication is so important.
3 Stars – if you have read all the other volumes there is no point stopping now. Things may be about to get interesting…